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The Vedic Hymn on the Supreme Being

by Sri V. Sundar
February 17, 1995


General Introduction
o Invocation
o Introduction to the Purusha Sukta

What is its place in the Vedas?

What does it talk about?

o Notes on this translation attempt

First anuvAka
o Verses 1-2
o Verses 3-6
o Verses 7-11
o Verses 12-15
o Verses 16-18

Second anuvAka
o Verses 1-6

Conclusion and Dedication

Invocation to the Acharyas

lakshmInAtha samArambhAm nAthayAmuna madhyamAm |
asmadAcArya paryantAm vande guruparamparAm ||

That wondrous lineage of preceptors, that starts with Sriman Narayana,

and came through Nathamuni down to my own Acharya, I salute that.

Invocation to Vishvaksena (sEnai mudaliAr)

yasya dvirada vaktrAdyAH pArishadyAH paraH Satam |
vighnam nighnanti satatam vishvaksenam tamASraye ||

An Introduction to the Purusha Sukta

Where is the Purusha Suktam in the Vedas?
Hindu religious sources are classified as ``Sruti'' or ``smRti''. Sruti -- that which is heard -- is of
the nature of divine revelation. We believe that the Vedas, hymns composed by seers and sages
beginning as best as we can date them in 3000 BC, were sung under divine inspiration. This is
why they are Sruti. These sages ``heard'' them as the voice of the Divine.
Only two bodies of hymns are recognized as divinely composed. One being the Vedas, and the
other, the Thiruvaaymozhi of Kaari Maaran Sadagopan, or Sri Nammaazhvaar, which are
recognized as equivalent to the 4 Vedas in the Ubhaya Vedanta school, the Sri Vaishnava
tradition. The six compositions of Kaliyan Neelan, or Sri Thirumangai Aazhvaar, are recognized
as the 6 vedAngas.
[Note: ubhaya vedAnta refers to the twofold vedAnta, seen through the two eyes of the Sanskrit
Upanishads and the Tamil Divya Prabandham. They are of paramount and equal authority to Sri

SmRti is that which is remembered, and includes a large part of the commentary of the Vedas,
different Puranas, epics, and other sources.
The Purusha Suktam is one of the Pancha Suktams of the Sri Vaishnava sampradaya or tradition.
The other four are the Narayana Suktam, Sri Suktam, Bhu Suktam, and the Nila Suktam.
The Purusha Suktam is seen earliest in the Rg Veda, as the 90th Suktam of its 10th mandalam,
with 16 mantrams. Later, it is seen in the Vajasaneyi Samhita of the Shukla Yajur Vedam, the
Taittriya Aranyaka of the Krishna Yajur Vedam, the Sama Veda, and the Atharvana Veda, with
some modifications and redactions.

In South India, the Purusha Suktam, Vishnu Suktam, Sri Suktam, and Narayana Suktam are
generally chanted together in paarayanam.
The Sri Rudram, Purusha Suktam, Upanishads, the Gita, and the Vishnu Sahasra Naamam are
also recommended for daily paarayanam - chanting.
Since the Purusha Suktam is seen in all Vedas, it is cited as the essence of all Srutis by Veda
Vyasa in the Mahabharata. Saunaka, Apastamba, and Bodhayana have also written concerning
the use of the Purusha Suktam.

What does the Purusha Suktam talk about?

The Purusha in the title of the Purusha Sukta refers to the Parama Purusha, Purushottama,
Narayana, in his form as the ViraaT Purusha. He was the source of all creation. It describes this
form of his, as having countless heads, eyes, legs, manifested everywhere, and beyond the scope
of any limited method of comprehension. All creation is but a fourth part of him. The rest is
Purusha as Brahma remained inactive, and Aniruddha Narayana, one of the four aspects of
Narayana in the first tier at the base of the Vishaaka Yoopa, asked him ``Why do you do
nothing?'' ``Because of not knowing,'' Brahma replied. ``Perform a yajna. Your senses, the devas,
shall be the ritviks. Your body shall be the havis. Your heart, the altar. And I shall be he who
enjoys the havis -- the offering. From your body sacrificed, shall you create bodies for all living
creatures, as you have done in kalpas before this.'' Thus says the sAkalya brAmhaNA.
This yajna was called ``sarvahut'', the offering of all. The act of creation itself grew out of yajna,
the rite of sacrifice. Who was worshipped at this sacrifice? It was the Purusha. Who performed
it? Brahma, the creative aspect of the Purusha. Who were the ritvik priests ? The devas, who are
the Purusha's senses. Who was tied as the beast of the sacrifice? Brahma, again. What was
barhis, the altar of the sacrifice? All of nature. Who was the fire? The Purusha's heart. What was
sacrificed? Again, the Purusha himself, his great body that contained all of creation.
In a way, this is a message of love, that the Purusha would consume himself in the fire of
creation, to create all the worlds. From this sacrifice did all of creation emanate. This is central to
the message of the Purusha Sukta.
vedAhametam purusham mahAntam
Aditya varNam tamasaH parastAt |
tam evam vidvAn amRta iha bhavati
na anyaH panthA vidyate 'yanaaya ||

This great Purusha, brilliant as the sun, who

is beyond all darkness, I know him in my
heart. Who knows the Purusha thus,
attains immortality in this very birth.
I know of no other way to salvation.

What about this translation attempt?

The redaction I have attempted to translate is based to a large part on theistic tradition and
approach, rather than a critical approach. This is because this is the way this wonderful
cosmogenical song speaks to me. My sources for the translation are to put it mildly, a
hodgepodge. I have little skill in Sanskrit myself, and have had to borrow heavily from these
Purushasukta Bhashya of Ranganaatha Muni.
Ranganaatha Muni (12th century) is also known as Periya Jeeyar or Nanjeeyar in the Sri
Vaishnava Sampradaya.
Hymns from the Rig Veda, by Jean Le Mee. New York: 1975.
Hymns from the Vedas, by Avinash Chandra Bose. Bombay: 1966.
``Anna'' 's translation into Tamil of the Purusha Suktam. Madras: 1986.
Rg bhAshya saMgraha, Chanana, ed., Orient Publishing House, Delhi: 1965.
Hopefully, that works. And now, on with the show!

Sri Purusha Suktam

prathama anuvAkam

Verse 1
sahasra SIrshA purusha: | sahasrAksha: sahasrapAt |
sa bhUmim vishvato vRtvA | atyatishTad daSAngulam || 1 ||

(sahasra) Thousands (SIrshA) of heads has (purusha:)

the great being. (sahasra) Thousands of (aksha) eyes has he,
(sahasra pAt) and thousands of legs. (sa) He (vRtvA)
manifests (bhUmim) the world. (atyatishTat) He stands
beyond (daSAngulam) the count of ten fingers.
The words ``purusha'' in its most literal sense means man. This is not a generic for human, but
includes the masculine sense and principle of the world. In one way, it is interpreted as Narayana
alone is purusha, and all the rest of prakriti, creation, is female. Purusha may also be split as pura
+ usha -- the dawn-light (usha) of the city of the body (pura). Or pu + rusha, one whose passions

are refined. Or even puru + sha, filled with wisdom and happiness. Which purusha is referred to
Man - is a simple answer, with some merit for its arguments. Man was created first, and he is a
creature that knows not its own glory, and he is sacrificed for the rest of creation -- a humbling
thought for us.
However, theistic and mystic sources tend to interpret purusha as Parama Purusha, the Supreme
Purusha, Purushottama, the best among purushas, Sriman Narayana. He is the source and the
basis of all creation, he manifests himself in all of it. All creation is his body -- the vishvaroopa
mahAkAya. He encompasses it.
So why does this Purusha have thousands of feet, hands, eyes? One must remember that large
numbers, like a thousand, can refer to a fuzzy ``uncountable''. SAyaNAcArya interprets this as
the Purusha manifesting himself in all that lives. And since all was created from his body, as we
shall see, all heads are his heads, all eyes his eyes, all feet his feet.
And then we see that the Purusha extends beyond ten fingers. Rather limited that seems -- until
we read sAyaNA again. The ten fingers here are the digits, the ten fingers of human hands. They
are the basis of count, of all mathematics, of all the logic and science built on mathematics.
However, they are all limited when it comes to analyzing purusha. He is transcendent, and
beyond such limited understanding.
With uncounted heads
Uncounted eyes, and
Uncounted feet, He
Moves, as all of
Verily is He
Beyond the grasp
Of the hands of men.
Verse 2
purusha evedaGM sarvam | yad bhUtam yac ca bhavyam |
utAmRtatvasyeshAnaH | yad annenAtirohati || 2 ||

(purusha) purusha (eva) alone (idam sarvam) is all

of this, (yad bhUtam) that which was, (yac ca bhavyam) and
that which is too be. (uta) Moreover (amRtatvasya) of
immortality too (IshAna) is he alone Lord. (yad) That
which (annena) as food (atirohati) shows itself, that too is

Purusha is creation, this we know. In time, he is all that is, all that was, and all that is to be. Does
he have an end, like death ? No. He is Lord of immortality, of the eternal that dies not (a-mRta).
Creation feeds on itself. It requires food to grow, to flourish. What is food but other life? Life
feeds on life, be it plant, or animal life. This is why we say the world grows on food, the world is
fill of food (annamayam jagat). All that is hidden in creation, and all that emerges, to show itself
and be food, all this is purusha. He sustains creation as food.
That which is,
Was, and is to be.
All of this
Is he alone..
And the eternal,
Beyond all end,
He is Lord,
Alone, of that.
The world is food..
That which hides,
And ventures forth,
He is that too.

Verse 3
etAvAn asya mahima | ato jyAyAGSca pUrusha: |
pAdo 'sya vishvA bhUtAni | tripAdasyAmRtam divi || 3 ||

(etAvAn) All that is here seen (asya) is his (mahima)

greatness. (ata:) And then, beyond all this (purusha: ca)
is that Purusha (jyAyAn) great. (vishvA bhUtani) All
that was created in this world (pAdo) is but one part
(asya) of him. (tripAd) The other three parts are (divi)
in heaven, (amRtam) where they are eternal.
This world of name and form (nAma-rUpa-bheda- jagat) is but one part of Purusha. Sat (truth),
cit (being) and Ananda (bliss) are the other three parts, that rest in Narayana alone, and are
eternal in him. As Sri Krishna says in the Gita (10-42), ma eka amSena sthito jagat -- By a
fraction of my yogic powers alone I sustain this world. And he is the one whose sport is this
world, who sports without distinction of name or form. (rUpa nAma vibhedena jagat krIdati yo
All that you see
Is but his glory
He is more
Than all of this
All of creation
Is but a fourth of him.

Three parts eternal

Rest in him alone.

Verse 4
tripAd Urdhva udait purusha: | pAdo 'syehAbhavatpuna: |
tato vishva.n vyakrAmat | sASanAnaSane abhi || 4 ||

(tripAd) Three parts (purusha:) of the purusha (udait) rise

above, (Urdhva) above all creation. (pAda:) One part alone
(asya) of his (iha) is here (abhavat) manifested (puna:) again and again.
(tata) From that part did (sASana - anaSana) beings that eat and eat not,
(vishvak) all of these (abhivyAkramat) did come forth.
Ranganathamuni comments on the greatness of the Purusha who looms above all creation. he is
filled with grace and all joy, knowledge, and goodness. He is eternal, and the basis of all. The
world's sustenance is but his sport. His joy is himself, as he is all. That besides, even the Vedas
wonder about his greatness. ``so anga veda yadi vA na veda.'' He alone knows -- or maybe he
knows not. (Rg Veda, nAsadIya sUkta).
The way ``yad annenAtirohati'' and ``sASanAnaSane abhi vyAkramat'' are interpreted is a point
of some discussion. Peterson, Renou, and LeMee, who give simply ``man'' for Purusha, interpret
these as ``man, who grows by food'', ``a part of man was made into all things that eat and eat not,
and advanced towards these/as these, outwards''. I prefer sAyaNA's interpretation, as given
above. Not only is the importance of food stressed, two verses before, but now Purusha is also
that which eats not, life and non-life. This is in conformity with the Visistadvaita view of
Brahman manifest as cit and acit, living and inert.
Three parts of his
Are beyond all this
All of this, is but a part.
Again and again,
All that eats,
And that eats not
Appeared from this
One part of His.
Verse 5
tasmAt virAd ajAyata | virAjo adhipUrusha : |
sa jAto atyaricyata | pashcAd bhUmimatho pura: || 5 ||

(tasmAt) from that great purusha (virAt) did the shining

universe (ajAyata) come forth. (virAjo adhi) From that

virAt, with its needs in heart (purusha:) came forth

Brahma, to care for it. (sa) He (jAta:) was born
(ati aricyata) and grew very large, extending (pascAt)
in front (bhUmim) of the earth (ata:) and then (pura:) behind.
From Purusha came forth the universe. The creative aspect of his, Brahma, came forth, and grew
to include everything in himself. This is why the universe is called ``bramhAnda'', the egg/sphere
of Brahma. ``BramhAnda'' is also an adjective indicating magnitude. This image of extending
above and on all sides of the earth is in concordance with Ranganathamuni.
What did this Brahma do after he was born ? SAyaNA gives the following interpretation. He
grows very large after being born (sa jAto atyaricyata). And then (pascAt) he (sa) creates the
earth (bhUmim) and then (ata:), (pura:) -- cities -- bodies for creatures to live in. ``virAt
vyaktRkto deva-tiryag-manushyAdi rUpo 'bhUt''. He became large and became the bodies, or
gave form to devas, animals (tiryak) and humans.
There is support for the former view from the sAkalya brAhmaNa, however. In this work,
Aniruddha Narayana, one of the four aspects of Narayana in the first tier of the Vishaka Yupa,
appears to Brahma. This Bramha, engorged with growth as it were, is inactive, he does nothing.
Aniruddha asks him the reason for his inactivity ``brahman kim tUshNIm bhavasi - iti'' and
Brahma replies, ``Because of not knowing'' - ``ajnAnAt - iti hovAca''. However, Brahma has to
create. This is his nature. So to remove his ignorance, Aniruddha Narayana instructs him to
perform sRshTi yajna, the sacrifice of creation.
In the brAhmaNa, this is termed kAncana yajna, the rite of gold. ``brahman sRshtyartham
kAncana yajnam kuru''. By this means will you be able to create the worlds, as you have in
kalpas past. The rest of Aniruddha Narayana's instructions and the details of the srSHti yagnya
are given in the verses to come.
From him came forth
The bright Universe
And he became a Creator
For its sake
And so he created
The verdant Earth
And creation
Was his body.
Verse 6
yatpurushena havishA | devA yajnam atanvata |
vasanto asyAsI-dAjyam | grIshma idhma Saraddhavi: || 6 ||

(yat) That (yajna) rite that (devA:) the gods (atanvata)

performed, (purushena) with the Purusha himself as
(havishA) havis, the fire offering, (vasanta) the Spring

(AsIt) became (Ajyam) its ghee. (grIshma) The summer

became its (idhma) samit-wood firebrand, (Sarad) Autumn
became (havi:) its burn offering.
What sort of yajna is this sRshTi yajna? Nothing exists but Brahma-purusha, who envelops all.
Logically, none of the ritual paraphernalia, the materiel, exist. It does not make consistent sense,
to me, to look at this as an actual rite of ``sacrifice, where the gods sacrificed a giant to create the
world'', as this has sometimes been decribed. This was in a comparative work that compared the
Purusha Suktam to the Norse tale of how the Aesir made the world from the body of Ymir, the
Consider however the traditional view of this as a mAnasa yajna, a meditative sacrifice, of and in
the heart, the first gedankeneksperiment, if you will!
The sRshTi yajna was Purusha's alone. He was havirbhokta, he who enjoys/eats the havis -- burnt
offerings to the fire. His senses were the devas, the gods, who were the ritvik-priests of this
sacrifice. Nothing but himself existed to sacrifice. And so he sacrificed himself (purusheNa
havisha) as the offering into the creative fires of his heart. A sacrifice of his self to himself, for
what or who existed but he? So the devas bound Brahma as the beast of sacrifice, and made
ready for the rite.
Clarified butter, or ghee, is what is poured on the fire to make it burn brighter. The fire of course,
is an essential part of any sacrifice. Fire is what speeds betweeen heaven and earth carrying the
food of sacrificial havis offerings to the gods. Spring brightens creation as the ghee brightens
fire. Samit (palAS, flame of the forest) twigs are fed to the fire, to make it hotter -- these samit
brands are Summer. Autumn with its brilliant hues was offered into the fire as havis.
Spring was the ghee
That brightened the fire
Summer the wood
That fueled it
Autumn was burnt
In this great rite
That the gods sacrificed
The Purusha in.

Verse 7
saptAsyA san paridaya: | tri: sapta: samida: krtA: |
deva yad yajnam tanvAnA: | abadhnan purusham paSum || 7 ||

(asya) For this sacrifice (sapta) seven were (paridaya:) the

sheathing logs, the fences. (tri:sapta) Thrice-seven, that is
twenty one (samida:) the samit-wood firebrands (krtA:) made,
(yad yajnam) for the sacrifice for which (devA:) the gods

as (tanvAnA:) as performers of the sacrifice (abadhnan) bound

(purusham) the purusha (paSum) as the beast of sacrifice.
The yAgAgni, the sacred fire of the sacrifice, is invoked on a vedi, or altar, that is always
sheathed, or fenced. sAyaNA gives us this: ``aishTikasyAvAhavanIyasya traya: paridaya:
uttaravedikAstraya: AdityaSca saptama: paridhi pratinidhi rUpa:''. Three fences are in the
uttaravedi part, three in the AvAhanIya, and Aditya is the seventh sheath, or fence.
Nothing had been created at this point. So what were the paridi-s? The seven chandas-s, or
metres, gAyatri, trishTup, brhatee, pankti, ushNuk, anushtup, and jagatI may be the seven here.
However, later verses would seem to go against this hypothesis. The chandas-s seem to be later
creations, as the basis of speech. The maitrAyaNi upanishad suggests prthvi (earth), ap (water),
tejas (fire), vAyu ( air), AkASa (space), ahamkAra (ego), and buddhi (intellect) as these seven.
The five elements or panchabhUtas among these, (prthvi, ap, tejas, vAyu, AkASa), along with
the five subtle principles or tanmAtras, the five active senses or karmendriyas, the five
discerning senses or jnAnendriyas, combined with anta:karaNam, darkening, are said to be the
twenty one samit firebrands, in the painkI brAhmaNa.
Seven were the fencing logs
Thrice seven the firebrands made
When the gods bound the Purusha
As the beast for their sacrifice.
Verse 8
tam yajnam barhishi prokshan | purusham jAtam agrata: |
tena devA ayajanta | sAdhyA RshayaS ca ye || 8 ||

(tam) That (purusham) purusha (yajnam) of the sacrifice,

(jAtam) who was (agrata:) in the beginning, (sAdhyA:) those
achievers (prokshan) sprinkled him with holy water (barhishi)
on the sacrificial bed of straw. (tena) By this means (devA
RshayaS ca) did the gods and the seers (ye) who where,
(ayajanta) sacrifice.
Here is the Purusha himself bound as the beast of sacrifice. This beast has to be sanctificed, on a
sacred bed of straw, with holy water. The word barhis indicates this straw. According to the
Yogaratna, virAt (the all), barhis and prakriti are synonyms. In this sense, all of nature is the
stage for this sacrifice, and Purusha the sacrifice to be offered. He was firstborn and foremost of
creation. The word sAdhyA: according to Ranganathamuni includes all devas, RSHis, suras, and
dwellers of Vaikuntha. However, in other places, it has been interpreted to mean something like
an analogue to ``bodhisattva'' -- those who have the potential of freedom from time, but have not
yet actually achieved it. In the sense that SAdhyam indicates possibility of achievement, I tend
towards this view.

Him, firstborn of all of this

The sanctified, on a bed of straw
By Him did the seers,
Those great ones,
By Him did the gods too
Verse 9
tasmAd yajnAt sarvahuta: | sambhRtam prshadAjyam |
pashUGs tAGS cakre vAyavyAn | AraNyAn grAmyAs ca ye || 8 ||

(tasmAt) From that (yajnAt) rite (sarvahuta:) called sarvahut

(sambhrtam) was gathered (prshad-Ajyam) ghee mixed with
yogurt. From this (cakre) were created (pashoon) beasts,
(vAyavyAn) denizens of the air, (AraNyAn) denizens of the
woods, (grAmyAn) and denizens of the villages.
There is no holding back in the sRshTi yajna, it is ``sarva-hut'', the offering of all. At yajnas,
what is called by sources like Renou and LeMee as ``the clotted fat'' or ``the oil of the sacrifice'',
curds mixed with ghee (clarified butter) was collected. Ranganathamuni is of the opinion that for
this yajna, the prshadAjyam was ``potency'' of wondrous hue (prANijanana hetu-bhUtam
vicitravarNam jagatkAraNa hetu bhUtam vIryam prshadAjyam bhavati) --- appearing as a means
by which animals might be born, of wondrous hue, a potency that appeared as a means of the
cause of the world --- this was the prshadAjyam, the seed of all creation. The exact synonym of
semen, retas, is not mentioned, but I think that in this case we may safely assume this is what is
meant. With this did Brahma create the birds, and wild and tame animals.
From that offering
Of all was drawn
The wondrous seed
Of all creation
With that did He
Give forms to all,
birds and beasts
Of field and forest.
Verse 10
tasmAd yajnAt sarvahuta: | Rca: sAmAni jajnire |
chandAGMsi jajnire tasmAt | yajus tasmAd ajAyanta || 9 ||

(tasmAt yajnAt sarvahuta:) From that Sarvahut rite (Rca:)

the Rg veda mantras and (sAmAni) sAma veda mantras
(jagnyire) were got. FRom that did (chandAmsi) did the metres

too (jagnyire) come forth. (tasmAt) From that were (yaju:) the
yajur veda mantras (ajayata) born.
sAyaNa gives this derivation for sarvahut: ``sarvAtmaka puruSHo yasmin yajne hooyate so ayam
sarvahuta:'' -- that yajna in which Purusha, the soul of all, is offered as sacrifice, that rite is
sarvahut. Of the Vedas, the Rg concerns itself with recited hymns, in praise of nature and its
deities, such as Agni, Indra, the Adityass,the Maruts, and so on. The sAma chants are those of
song, the basis of music. Yajus, the Veda of the adhvaryu priests, is that of the methods, and
formulas for the rite. Along with these comes forth chandas, the metre or rhythm of hymning.
From that rite
Of the giving of All,
Did the recited hymns
And the sung come forth
And from that came
The poetic metre
And from that arose
The ritual hymns.
Verse 11
tasmAdashvA ajAyanta | ye ke cobhayAdata: |
gAvoham jagnyire tasmAt | tasmajjatA ajAvaya: || 10 ||

(tasmAd) From that (ajAyanta) were born (asvA:) horses,

and beings with (eke ca) only one and (ubhayAdata:) two
rows of teeth. (gAva:) Cattle (jagnyire) were made (tasmAt)
from that. (tasmAt) From that (jAta) were born (ajA:) goats
and (Avaya:) sheep.
The most common interpretation I have seen for ``ye ke cobhayAdata'' is all animals with two
rows of teeth. The one here, I have seen only in aNNa's Tamil translation. However, it appeals to
me as innately right. As for animals with one row of teeth, I cannot think of any except whales
with their baleen. Someone with a better knowledge of zoological orthodonty may be able to
help me here =). All the animals specifically mentioned here, presumably had been tamed, and
were counted as wealth in Rg Vedic society.
From that were born stately horses
Beasts with one and two rows of teeth
Cattle too, were born thereof
And goats and sheep with them created.
Verse 12
yat puruSHam vyadadhu: | katidhA vyakalpayan |

mukham kimasya kau bAhoo | kavooroo pAdA ucyete || 11 ||

(yat) The (puruSHam) purusha (vyadadhu:) that they divided,

(katidhA) into what forms , how, (vyakalpayan) did they shape
him ? (kim) What (Aseet) became (asya mukham) of his mouth ?
(kau) What are (ucyete) now called (asya bAhoo) his arms ?
(asya ooroo) His thighs, (asya pAdau) his feet, (kau ucyete)
what do they call them now ?
This verse begins a series of questions and answers as to how the purusha was divided up, and
what each of the parts of his body (kosha roopa - the form that contained all) became, in the
sarvahut rite of creation. Aniruddha Narayana had advised Bramha that to make his body the
havis, Aniruddha the havirbhokta, and meditating on Narayana, merge himself, offer himself up
to Narayana's form of fire. (mAm ca havirbhbhujam dhyAtvA manmanAbhootva mayyagnau
nivaacaye) And by just feeling the touch (madanga sparsha maatreNa) of his, Bramha's body, in
which all of the worlds are contained (jagat-kosha bhootas-tvat-kAyo) would become huge
(brmhishyate) and become the bramhanda, the great all. The different classes of animals that
came forth from this (tasmAt udbhootAni prANi jAtAni), Bramha would be able to establish for
them different and appropriate forms (yaTHA puram nirmAya) and assume the role of creator
(sraSHTHA bhavishyasi) that he had in previous eons.
Those samskrt quotes are from the P.S. samhita of the sAkalya brAmhaNam, referred to before.
Like most brAMhaNa verses, this ends with " evam srSHTHiyagnyam yo jAnAti sa janmaneeha
mukto bhavati " - Who knows the rite of creation thus, will be liberated in this very birth.
So now the details of this 'ritual dismemberment' of the purusha's body, the bramhAnda, are
given in the next few verses as an account of this creation rite.
When they had
Divided him up,
Into what forms
Dis they cast Him ?
And what of his mouth,
His arms, his thighs, His feet ?
What did they make them ?
Verse 13
brAhmaNo asya mukhamAseet | bAhoo rAjanya: krta: |
ooru tadasya yad vaishya | padbhyAm shoodro ajAyata || 12 ||

(asya) His (mukham) mouth (Aseet) became (brAhmaNa:)

the Brahmin, (bAhoo) his arms (krta:) were made (rAjanya:)
Kings. (yad) what were(asya ooru) his thighs, (tad) they were
made into (vaishya:) the merchants, (padbhyAm) and from his feet
(shoodro) were the servants (ajAyata) born.

Any commentary on this has, to say the least, significant possibilities of spinning out of control
as a discussion on the role and system of the varNa-jAti system. I think it best to let the verse
speak for itself, as a record of the world-view of its time, and let thinkers draw their own
From his mouth came forth
The men of learning
And of his arms
Were warriors made
From his thighs came
The trading people
And his feet gave
Birth to servants..
Verse 14
candramA manaso jAta: | caksho sooryo ajAyata |
mukhaadeendrascAgnischa | prANAdvAyurajAyata || 13 ||

(manasa:) From his mind (candramA) was the moon (jAta:)

born. (caksho) from his eyes (soorya:) the sun was (ajAyata)
born. (mukhAd) From his mouth (indra-sca) Indra and (agni-sca)
Agni and (prANAt) from his breath (vAyu:) the wind (ajAyata:)
were born.
The natural phenomena mentioned in this verse are synonymous with their deities, who govern
them. This sort of 'double' reference is common throughout the Rg-veda, especially in hymns
addressed to various dieties that also contain some breathtaking images of nature and are
beautiful poetry. The puruSHa is the source of these dieties too. sAyaNAcarya says "yathA
dadhi-Ajya-Adi-dravyAni gAvadaya: .... candra-Adayo deva: api tasmAt iva utpanna ityAha:
"Just as essences like yogurt and ghee come forth from undifferentiated, but essential milk,
different in nature, yet identical in source, even thus did the Gods, like candra, come forth fom
the puruSHa. He is indeed the basis of all things. prANa is just one of the breaths recognized by
the vedic people. apAna, vyAna, samAna, udAna are some of the others.
Of his mind , the Moon is born
Of his gaze, the shining Sun
from his mouth, Thunder and Fire,
And of his life's breath,
The whistling wind..
Verse 15
nAbhyA Aseedantariksham | sheerSHNau dhyau: samavartata |
padbhyAm bhoomir disha: shrotrAt | tathA lokAm akalpayan || 14 ||

(nAbhyA) from his navel (Aseed) did appear (antarisham)

space. (sheerSHNa:) From his head was (dhyau:) the sky
(sam-avartat) well established. (padbhyAm) From his feet
(bhoomi) the earth (shrotrAt) from his ears (disha:) the directions
(tathA) This did they (akalpayan) by mere intent, that is sankalpa,
cause (lokAn) the worlds.
This verse is the conclusion of the details of the establishment of the worlds by the devas, and
the sAdhyas.
Some texts mention the verse "saptasyAn paridhaya:" after this, this is common in most Rgsangraha-s. The last verse of the PS redaction in these texts ( eg. Le Mee, Chanana) is "yagnyena
yagnyam.." which curiously, is found elsewhere in the Rgveda. This place is the "asya vAmasya
palitasya hotu:" hymn, RV -214, by the rSHi deerghatamas (literally, profound darkness).The
asya vAmasya hymn is notable for its intense and complex imagery, and I have yet to find a
satisfactory interpretation for its riddles.
However, the next three verse of the southern redaction are pregnant with meaning, and relevant
to our enquiry.
Space unfolds
From his navel
The sky well formed
From his head
His feet, the earth
His ears the Quarters
Thus they thought up
All the worlds.
Verse 16
vedAhametam puruSHam mahAntam | AdityavarNam tamasastu pAre |
sarvANi roopANi vicitya dheera: | nAmAni krtvAbhivadan yadAste ||
16 ||

(yat) That (dheera:) valorous puruSHa (Aste) who is, who has
(vicitya:) materialized (sarvAni) all (roopANi) forms, and (krtya:)
made (sarvAni) all (nAmAni) names, (abhivadan) and maintains all
of these, (etam) that (mahAntam) glorious (AdityavarNam)
sun-brilliant (puruSHam) puruSHa, (astu) who is (pAre)
beyond(tamas) darkness, (aham) I (veda:) Know him.
This verse is probably closest to the Sri Sampradaya visualization of Sriman Narayana, as creator
and maintainer of all, ( refer back to 'namo bhagavate tasmai krSHNaya adbhuta karmaNe roopa
nAma vibhedena jagat kreedati yo yata:'), full of kalyANa guNas such as mahimA, brilliant as
the sun, and beyond all darkness. What is the advantage of knowing this then ? This is explained
in later verses. Also, in sAyaNa's commentary " mantradraSHtA svakeeyam dhyAnAnubhavam

prakatayati". This mantra is how to visualize him for meditation, and thus to know him. Compare
this to Vishvamitra in the Ramayana " aham vedmi mahAtmAnam rAmam satya-parAkramam /
vasiSHto api mahAtejo ye ceme tapasi sthitA:" - I know the great souled Rama, of deeds beyond
measure, powerful in truth, more brilliant than Vasishta, who protected my yagnya well". Or
Mandodari's praise of Rama as Mahavishnu in the same, " tamasa: paramo dhAtA shankacakra
gadhAdara" - O Creator, who bears the Conch, the Disk, and the Mace as weapons, who is
Supreme above all darkness. The image of the sun here is especially effective, as the tamas
referred to here is the darkness of the soul, ignorance and inactivity.
I Know Him,
Glorious, Valorous,
Who Names, Forms,
And Keeps all this,
Bright as the Sun,
Beyond all Darkness.
Verse 17
dhAtA purastAdhyamudAjahAra | shakra: pravidvAn pradishashcatasra:
tamevam vidhvAnamrta iha bhavati | nAnya: panthA ayanAya vidhyate
|| 17 ||

(ayaNaya) To moksha, liberation (na vidhyate) I know not of

(anya:) other (panthA:) paths. (yam) Whom (dhAtA) Bramha
(udAjahAra:) saw as the Supreme Being, and revealed (purastAt)
in the beginning, (yam) whom (shakra:) Indra (pravidvAn) knew
well, (pradishas-ca-tasra) in the four quearters, and everywhere,
(vidvAn) who knows (tam) Him (evam) in this manner (bhavati)
becomes (amrta:) immortal (iha) in this very birth.
In the beginnning, Bramha said to the puruSHa, "You are who was before me.. You are my guide
in this", naming him the cause of himself, and all. Indra learnt of the glory of the parama
puruSHa from vAmadeva, and from the four directions - Ranganathamuni.
The object of almost all vedic rites was to make life, or death, a little less dangerous ( see, eg.,
Wendy Doniger-O'Flaherty). The refrain of the mantras for these rites is 'Who knows this
conquers death'. Even the stories in several bramhaNas involves seers 'seeing and praising with
this hymn or metre, and thereby conquering death'. It is interesting to note that the goal is not life
eternal (chiranjeevitva) but a-mrta, or not-dying. This is a matter of the soul rather than the body,
a difference worth appreciating.
The puruSHa is manifested by the chanting of this mantra, to who chants this, in thheir hearts.
This is thebeginning - of the world, of contemplation of the worlds, of knowledge. In this
knowledge, in knowing this by the heart, by the soul, is the beginning of liberation. To know of

no other way but this reflects mahAvishvAsa - great faith. This, 'nAnya: panthA vidhyate
ayanAya' refrain is also found in several upanishadas.
Who the Creator saw
And revealed, as the Cause
Of whom Indra learnt
In all the quarters
Who knows Him thus
Conquers death now.
I know of no other
Ways, than this.
Verse 18
yagnyena yagnya-mayajanta deva: | tAni dharmANi prathamAnAsann |
te ha nAkam mahimAna: sacante | yatra poorve sAdhyA: santi devA:
|| 18 ||

(yagnyena) By sacrifice (devA:) did the Gods (ayajanta)

sacrifice (yagnyam) to sacrifice. (tAni) The (dharmANi)
associated dharmas (Asan) became (prathamAni) the first.
(te mahimAna:) By the glory of these very dharmas (sacante)
will the great ones achieve (yatra nAkam) that heaven where
(poorve) the ones who were, before, (devA:) and the Gods
also called (sAdhyA:) the achievers, (santi) are.
Here then is the importance of the sacrifice. The two words yAga and tyAga are both related, and
may be translated as the one word, sacrifice, giving us a clue to the nature of the rite. The world
is established by sacrifice - the puruSHa giving his all, which is his self, his body, to form this
world, the lives on it, giving them name and form. Why did this happen ? The nAsadiya sookta
relates, when neither being nor non-being was (na sat Aseet, na asat Aseet), the One breathed,
without air. But then, "kAmastadagre samavartatAti" - desire first moved it. desire to be. And in
its being, the world is. This One, we call puruSHa, Sriman Narayana, God. And this is sat Existence, along with Knowledge and Bliss, part of the nature of the divine. So the next time
someone tells you St. Augustine was the first to define God as the verb "to be", you can refute
them with this.. =).
All that is, is born of this love, this desire. And all was given (sarvahut) to bring this about. This
is the nature of this being.
This is the sacrifice, whose results were the beginning of all. This is why the verse says "tAni
dharmAni prathamAni Asan" - these dharmas became the first. They are the fruits of the
sacrifice, that provide us the means to our own liberation, our very own stairway to heaven.
By Sacrifice did the Gods
Sacrifice to Sacrifice

By the fruits of this,

The first harvest,
Do the great ones
Ascend to where the Gods
The first ones,
Those who made straight the way

Sri Purusha Suktam

dvitIya anuvAkam

Verse 1

adbhyassambhoota: prthivyai rasAcca | vishvakarmaNassamavartatAdhi

tasya tvaSHTA vidadhadroopameti | tatpuruSHasya vishvamAjAnamagre
|| 1 ||

(adbhya:) From the waters and from the (rasAt) elemental essence
of (prthivyai) earth (sambhoota:) was the bramhAnda, the
Universe, born. (vishvakarmaNa:) As vishvakarma, the divine
architect, did puruSHa, who is (adhi) more than that Universe, appear
(samavartata). (tvashTA) As tvashTA, the divine smith he
(vidadhat) establishes (tasya roopam) his form, that includes all the
worlds (eti) and manifests it everywhere. (agre) In the beginning
was (tat puruSHasya) that puruSHa's (vishvam) all, his vishva
roopa, (Ajanam) formed.
The waters of destruction are again the waters of creation, and from them does the earth reveal
itself after praLaya. From these elemental materials is the universe formed, and into these it
dissolves. Ashes to ashes, and dust to dust. tvashTA was the smith who forges Indra's vajra,
thunderbolt, from the bones of the RSHi dadeechi. Vishvakarma is the divine architect who
planned and built, among other cities, Kubera's Alakaapuri and also Lanka, and Indra's city.
From the waters and earth
Does all appear
As a builder he builds,
As a smith he forges it..

He who was all

Before the all was.
Verse 2
vedAhametam puruSHam mahAntam | AdityavarNam tamasas pArastAt |
tamevam vidhvAnamrta iha bhavati | nAnya: panthA vidhyate ayanAya
|| 2 ||

(etam) That (mahAntam) glorious (AdityavarNam) sun-brilliant

(puruSHam) puruSHa, (astu) who transcends (pArastAt) all
(tamas) darkness, (aham) I (veda:) know him.(vidvAn) Who
knows (tam) Him (evam) in this manner (bhavati) becomes
(amrta:) immortal (iha) in this very birth. (ayaNaya) To moksha,
liberation (na vidhyate) I know not of (anya:) other (panthA:)
This is a re-working of shlokas 16 and 17 in the first lesson, or pratama anuvAka.
I Know Him,
Bright as the Sun,
Beyond all Darkness.
Who knows him thus
Conquers death now.
I know of no other
Ways, than this.
Verse 3
prajApatischarati garbhe anta: | ajAyamAno bahudhA vijAyate |
tasya dheerA: parijAnanti yonim | mareecheenAm padamiccanti
vedhasa: || 3 ||

(prajApati:) As prajApati, Lord of his Subjects, he (carati)

lives (anta:) in (garbhe) the womb. (ajAyamAna: ) Unborn,
(vijAyate) he appears (bahudhA) in many ways. (dheerA:) The
steadfast (parijAnanti) know well (tasya) his (yonim) true form.
Even (vedhasa:) the creators, the knowers (iccanti) desire to the
(padam) positions of (mareechenAm) sages like mareechi, who
worship Him.
I must go to sAyaNa for commentary on this rather obtuse verse. What is this womb prajApati
resides in ? 'bramhAnda roope garbhe anat madhye prajApatir vigrahavAn bhootva carati'. virAt,
the shining universe, the female principle that puruSHa gave birth to, which in turn gave birth to
puruSHa has now been formed into the bramhAnda, and is compared to a womb, in which

prajApati, Lord of his Subjects, puruSHa manifested as a fertility diety invoked in weddings etc.,
resides. Purusha does not need to be born to manifest himself as all. That process begins before
he appears from, in and as virAt. He encompasses satyam, gnyaanam, anantam - truth,
knowledge, and infinity. Since he gives birth to all, he is yoni, themouth of the womb. His form
is a yoni, from which all is born. 'tasya prajApater yonim jagatkAraNaroopam vAstavam
svaroopam'. Who knows this ? 'dheera dhairyavantA yogena drtendriyA mahAtmAno jAnanti' the brave, the courageous, those who have made their senses steadfast in yoga, those great ones
know this truth. Such is the compulsion of this truth that even the srshtikartA-s of this world,
those that puruSHa has manifested himself as in order to create, desire nothing but to worship
him as 'tam eva upAsya mareeceenAm mareecyatri-pramukhAnAm' - the sage mareeci, and
sages led by mareeci, atri (among the seven RSHis) - as these sages do.
Birthing this word
Himself Unborn
He is known by those
Who yoked their senses..
And even the knowers
Of this world and more
Desire but to adore Him.
Verse 4
yo devebhya Atapati | yo devAnAm purohita: |
poorvo yo devebhyo jAta: | namo rucAya brAhmaye || 4 ||

(nama:) We salute (ya:) who (Atapati) shines as divinity in

(devebhya:) in the Gods, (ya:) who is (purohita:) Brhaspati, priest
to (devAnAm) the Gods, (ya:) who was (jAta:) born (poorva:)
before (devebhya:) the Gods, (rucAya) who brilliant in himself,
(brahmaye) is the parabramham, the supreme all.
puruSHa was, 'hiraNyagarbha: samavartatAgre' - before the golden shining womb of all, virAt,
was established. He is first of all the Gods, their priest, their guide to immortality, and the
essence of their divinity. verily is he worthy of our salutations. This is one answer to the question
"kasmai devAya havitA vidhema?" - Which God shall we worship by our offerings ?
Who burns, fire-bright
In the Gods, who is their priest,
Eldest, who is the Essence,
Of what Is,
We worship Him.
Verse 5
rucam brAmham janayanta: | deva agre tadabruvan |

yastvaivam brAhmaNo vidhyAt | tasya deva asan vashe || 5 ||

(deva) The Gods, who (janayanta) send forth the (rucam

brAhmam) essence of the knowledge of Brahman (abruvan) said
this (tat) about that Brahman (agre) in the Beginning : " (yastu)
whoever (brAhmaNa:) has an inclination towards Brahman, if he
(vidhyAt) knows Brahman (evam) thus, (devA:) the Gods (asan)
will be (tasya) in his (vashe) control. "
The Gods taste of Brahman.. This "rucam brAmham" is yet another food metaphor for the
joining, or the union of the seeker and the sought. Even as he who eats food tastes it, so shall you
taste Brahman, and enjoy him. The Gods are in the Brahma- Vidyaa-Sampradaaya, and they are
our teachers, our gurus too. They declare this in the beginning, as a sort of 'phalashruti', or list of
fruits of knowing the puruSHa thus : Who, with heart steadfast on the puruSHa knows him thus,
him even we will serve. Compare the Taittiriya Upanishad, that talks about he who knows
Brahman - 'sarve asmai devA balim-Aharanti' - All the Gods bring him offerings.
The Gods who taste
Him, and spread the word
Said this, in the beginning
``Who with his heart
Knows Him, thus,
Him even We will be bound by.''
Verse 6
hreeshca te lakshmeeshca patnyau | ahorAtre pArshve |
nakshatrANi roopam | ashvinau vyAttam |
iSHTam maniSHANa |
amum maniSHANa |
sarvam maniSHANA ||

(hreeshca) Hree and (lakshmishca) Laskhmi are (patnyau) wives (te)

to you. (aho - rAtre) The day and the night (pArshve) your sides.
(nakshatrANi) the Stars (roopam) your brilliant form. (ashvinau)
the Healing Ashvins (vyAttam) your mouth
(maniSHANa) Grant us (iSHTam) the knowledge that we desire,
(maniSHANa) grant us (amum) happiness in this world,
(maniSHANa) grant us (sarvam) all that is, now and forever
Hree is the Goddess that grants Modesty, and Lakshmi she who grants Wealth. ( hreerlajjAbhimAninee devata , lakshmee- raishvayAbhimAninee devatA - iti sAyaNA) The Day and
the Night are even such opposites. Sriman Narayana is the conciliation of all such opposites,
even as Sesha, the snake, and garuda, the eagle, worshipping him together signify. He is brilliant
as the stars, and healing comes from him.

Asking him to grant as iSHTam, amum, sarvam, is an analogue to asking for sat, Ananda, and
chit. All we ask is to know Him.
Hree and Lakshmi
Are your consorts, your
Two sides, Day and Night,
The stars your form,
Healing your words.
Grant us
Our desires,
Our joys,
Your all.
being (mAnushebhya:)
to all mankind. (bheshajam) May plants, like medicinal herbs
(jigAtu) flourish and grow (oordhvam) upwards. (sham)
Good (na: astu ) come unto us from (dvipade) creatures that
go on two feet (sham) and good from (chatuSHpade) those
that go on four feet. (shAnti:) Peace.
Sorrows that are, and sorrows to be
We seek that which grants us
Peace from these
May the rite flourish,
And those who keep it..
The grace of the gods
Be with all mankind..
May the earth be covered
With growing green
And good come to us
From all creation
From beings that go
On two feet and four..
May the three-fold peace
Embrace the Land..

This translation is dedicated to my great grandfather, Mahomahopadhyaaya Manaloor Veeravalli
Ramanujacharyar. Its faults are mine alone.The spirit that moved and enthused me to even
attempt this is his, and what he inspires. I did not know him in life. This is my small attempt at
remembering him, as he deserves to be remembered - in learning, in respect, in humility, and
most of all, in trying - for his spirit of doing was indefatigable.

-- V. Sundar